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ATU Launches Sonoma-Marin Bus Operator Pre-Apprenticeship Programs

The ATU is excited to announce a new partnership between Local 1575-San Rafael, CA, Golden Gate Transit (GGT), and Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC). This partnership, the first of its kind in California, will create an innovative Sonoma-Marin Bus Operator Pre-Apprenticeship Program that will link directly to an apprenticeship program.  

Serving residents of both Sonoma and Marin Counties with an emphasis on low-income communities, this pre-apprenticeship program will also create a pipeline of prepared applicants to the Bus Operator Apprenticeship Program at the College of Marin. The program will directly address a major workforce shortage for GGT and provide family-sustaining careers to many community members in the North Bay region.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on low-income residents in Sonoma and Marin, particularly affecting employment for those in the hospitality and service sectors.  Currently, many remain unemployed or under-employed.  The ATU and the apprenticeship program are committed to directly targeting these priority populations. 

GGT has experienced a reduction in service due to the work from home mandates. Now that the State and Bay Area region are getting employees back to the office, GGT is facing a major shortage of bus operators. Attrition rates are outpacing the number of new applicants, leading to a nearly 50% reduction in bus service to Marin, Sonoma, San Francisco, and Contra Costa counties.  

“Maintaining the availability of public transit is critical for many essential workers in the region who depend on our members to get to and from jobs in high-cost Sonoma, Marin, and San Francisco counties,” said Local 1575 President Shane Weinstein. “This innovative program will help us to get new and experienced members to do the importance work of moving our communities.”

In collaboration with the ATU and GGT, SRJC is designing a no-cost, one-semester pre-apprenticeship program that will directly address the basic and employment skills, and job-specific terminology necessary to be an effective, professional bus operator.  

Reading, writing, and career preparation classes, taught in a bilingual format, will be co-developed and, at times, co-taught by SRJC faculty and GGT staff. The pre-apprentice curriculum will include a practicum course that all students must complete. The practicum course will be four days of paid, on-the-job experience at GGT that will include shadow days and “ride-alongs” with seasoned Local 1575 bus operators from the labor/management Mentor Program, tours of the various transit facilities in Sonoma and Marin counties, and exposure to the job requirements and daily activities of bus operators by staff in the GGT Safety and Training Unit.

The pre-apprenticeship program will be directly linked to the Bus Operator Apprenticeship program being developed by GGT, Local 1575, and the College of Marin. Successful pre-apprentice candidates will earn a Certificate in Workforce Development from SRJC and OSHA 10 general certification. Pre-apprentices who successfully transition to the bus operator apprenticeship with GGT will simultaneously earn college credit from the College of Marin while learning on the job as paid GGT apprentice bus operators.

The Sonoma-Marin Bus Operator Pre-apprenticeship Program will serve 100 participants during the three-year grant period. Welcome, all new apprentices to the ATU family.